May 5, 2007

14-year-old stabbed in Mall of America

A 14-year-old girl was stabbed Saturday afternoon in the Mall of America. Another 14-year-old girl was the assailant, and she was apprehended 15 minutes after the incident. The victim has multiple wounds that may be critical. The police do not believe that the incident was random. They said that there is reason to believe that the assailants knew each other.

The story was covered by both major papers in the Twin Cities, the Pioneer Press and the Star Tribune.

The Star Tribune, written by Richard Meryhew and Paul Gustafson, has a long in-depth story involving the incident, including background on the prevalence of crimes at the Mall. They have details of the incident high in the story, carefully attributed to the police. They also talked to a mall spokesperson to get details about crime at the mall. The story was posted around 7.30 p.m. on Saturday.

The Pioneer Press's story, written by Tom Webb, is little more than a brief. They posted their story around 6 p.m., but had only relevant, immediate information. They also included that the mall remained open for the rest of the day. This was never mentioned in the Star Tribune article, though it was implied from the last paragraphs of the story.

I'm curious if the Pioneer Press will have a more comprehensive story tomorrow, and if they were pressured to publish a brief before the Star Tribune. I'm also curious if the Star Tribune posted a brief and later added to the story.

The handling of the incident was delicate because it was a breaking news story, and because both the victim and the assailant were juveniles. The Star Tribune even stated that explicitly in their story—that the police declined to name either because both were juveniles.

May 1, 2007

Hatch Resigns

Mike Hatch resigned from his post in the Attorney General's office today, amid conflict with current Attorney General Lori Swanson and her staff. Ten percent of the staff has left since Swanson took office.

Pat Doyle of the Star Tribune has an article posted on this subject 45 minutes before I am writing this blog entry. This is breaking news, and this is the way that the newspaper deals with it. It was the top story on the Star Tribune website. His article provides a large amount of information considering that this is a breaking story. They have specific figures about Hatch's salary and the circumstances of his leaving. The article also quotes heavily from a letter from Hatch to Swanson about his resignation.

The Pioneer Press also covered this story, with reporter Bill Salisbury, within minutes of the Star Tribune article. This article is shorter, and does not have all of the information that the Star Tribune article does. This is more of a brief to get the breaking news out. However, they do provide a paragraph about the recent election that involved Mike Hatch and how Swanson won her position as Attorney General. The Star Tribune article does not include this information.

Most interesting about these articles are the other things on the website. The Star Tribune article includes the phone number of the reporter that wrote the article right at the end. On the Pioneer Press website, there include a link to the full text of the letter from Hatch to Swanson.

Both served their purpose of alerting the public of the breaking news and both strove to place this story in context, but they did so choosing different contexts.

April 15, 2007

FOIA in action

I never had to leave the comfort of my dorm room to put the Freedom of Information Act to the test. A few phone calls to my city council woman and I knew exactly where to look on the Internet for the complete agenda for the Minneapolis City Council meeting.

I found out that the agenda was posted online when I was working on the profile lab, choosing to profile City Council member Cam Gordon. I didn’t realize then that the online version links to the minutes of the various committee meetings, which provide complete information for the topics discussed at the City Council meetings. Anyone with a computer can access this information. They no longer print out copies of the agenda, so it may be more difficult to get if one does not have access to a computer or a printer.

The site is also not all that easy to negotiate sometimes, so the help of Diane Hofstede’s office was useful. They referred me to the City Clerk’s office which spent five minutes explaining to me how their posting worked.

This information is readily available, at your fingertips, if you know how to look for it.

February 25, 2007


It's snowing in Minnesota, hard, and both local papers had to report on the story. Both papers have multiple stories.

The challenge with this story is to make something very obvious--that it's snowing--into hard news. All the stories also provide a public service, giving snow emergency information, and how to prepare. They are also providing a service for the public, encouraging people to stay home, and stay off of the roads.

It is also a challenge to get people to read these stories, because they are filled with such boring, yet useful information. So they tried to take different angles, one using the snow to say how it can't stop the Wild from playing, or travel delays, or how certain ordinary people are dealing with the snow.

There are even interactive polls on the websites, asking how much snow will fall.

I'd think it wouldn't be so much of a crisis, considering we live in Minnesota. But then again, if the newspaper doesn't report on the obvious, how does it keep its credibility?

February 18, 2007

Parents lie in baby's death

Two parents lied about how their baby received life-ending injuries. And now the father has been charged with second degree unintentionally murder in his daughter's death.

The Star Tribune and the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on this story.

Both stories use a slightly delayed lead to tell this story. And then use a shorter sentence to turn.

The Star Tribune said:

If so, it wasn't the first time, according to court documents filed Friday.

The Pioneer Press said:

Both stories were lies, police say.

Both stories detail the original story the parents told and then get into what medical evidence said, and what the father later admitted to in an affidavit. This story is also a follow-up--the original story was about the suspicious death of this child. But the actual story is the most interesting part of this story.

Both stories go long in-depth on both parts of the story, which can be confusing if not told correctly or blurred together. This happens a little in both stories.

The Pioneer Press story includes new information because it was posted later than the Star Tribune article. But neither has been updated since.

February 11, 2007

3M pollutants in Woodbury

A chemical has been linked into the groundwater in areas around a Woodbury drop site, where Minnesota company 3M dumped chemicals in the 60s. Though the health department doesn't really know if the chemicals are harmful to humans, they are telling worried residents to drink bottled water or filter their water.

The Star Tribune first reported on this story on Feb. 3. This version of the story deals more with the what of the story, rather than the so what. It discusses the problem and what 3M is asked to do about this--figure out a plan within the next 30 days.

The Pioneer Press chose to do a larger feature article on the repercussions of this event, and published it in Sun., Feb. 11's newspaper. This story serves as a follow-up to what they reported around the same time as the Star Tribune article. This story focuses on the people, and their concerns, what they're doing about this. It also provides detailed information about public meetings.

Those these two are hard to compare because they focuses are different, I think that maybe the Star Tribune missed the follow-up part of this story, which seems to be needed because of the information in the Pioneer Press article. This brings up the question of how much to report, how in depth do we need to go, how many people do we talk to, which needs to be answered for every story.

February 4, 2007

Sheriff's Aide Being Investigated By FBI

Mark Naylon, an aide for Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, is being investigated by the FBI on allegations of stealing money, tampering with evidence, and helping suspects and informants. Fletcher is sticking by Naylon, calling him a good friend and an asset to the department.

The Pioneer Press and The Star Tribune picked up the story.

The challenge with this story is that it is almost a non-story. My summary is pretty much all that they know, because the investigation just started, and won't be discussed. They also had a challenge in making in balanced because Naylon was unavailable for comment and his lawyer also made no comment.

To make this long enough to be a full article, both papers did background digging on Naylon. Paul McEnroe, Mary Lynn Smith and Howie Padilla, the reporters for the Star Tribune wrote of his background and his history in the city. They talked of his business ventures and also discussed some unflattering comments made by police--interfering with investigations. This information was clear and easy to follow, and with an exception to the last part, wasn't too controversial or damning.

Mara H. Gottfried of the Pioneer Press took a different approach in the background information. She discussed a specific case that occurred in 2003. This introduced new people to the story and seemed a little confusing to me. It didn't seem to fit and I wasn't sure exactly why I was reading it.

I thought that the Star Tribune did a better job in giving me relevant background information, and facing the challenge of turning a one-line story into a full article.

January 26, 2007

Legislation Promoting Hmong History in Wisconsin

Lawmakers in Wisconsin are once again proposing making the teaching of Hmong history in Wisconsin schools mandatory. This arises racial tension resulted in the shooting of a Hmong man while he was hunting. Lawmakers hope to increase cultural understanding of Hmong history, including their involvement in the Vietnam War.

The Pioneer Press had two challenges when choosing to report on this story, which appeared on the front page of Friday's edition. They had the challenge of making proposed legislation interesting, though because this deals with cultural issue in the schools, this is made easier. They also had the challenge of making this relevant to Minnesotans, because the legislation, and the shooting that helped to spark it, have been proposed in Wisconsin. The Pioneer Press does a good job with this challenge, but mentioning that Wisconsin, Minnesota, and California have the largest Hmong populations. It even goes so far as to mention Minnesota's requirements for this kind of thing, citing that we already have a version of this standard in place.

The Green Bay Press-Gazette also reported on this story. Their story has more of a local flavor, because they can treat it as such. It also uses quotes from specific representatives for the Assembly, and from Green Bay's school district. It has more reaction from the community, compared to the Pioneer Press article, which is comparing the proposed bill with Minnesota's standards.

Both stories mention the shooting of Cha Vang as part of the motivation for this bill, though it was brought up last legislative session as well. Both also mention, more than once, that the Hmong played a role in the Vietnam War. That role is only explained in the Pioneer Press article, which also provides more background information on the shooting of Cha Vang, probably because its Minnesotan readers are less familiar with that piece of news.